Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Are Taxes Forcing Long Island Seniors Out?

A phone call from a senior citizen yesterday made me stop and think about the effect escalating property taxes are having on an already overburdened, aging population on Long Island. He sadly, and with some bitterness, told me that he might be forced to give up his long time home and leave for a place where he could afford to live. What a sad commentary when the people who helped support our towns, schools, merchants and the officials who turn a deaf ear to their plight, have no option but to abandon everything they know for the uncertainty of a future somewhere else. In this writer's humble opinion they have earned the right to be here and to live out their lives in the home of their choice, not one dictated by happenstance. After all they bought into the dream, and sometimes risked everything to achieve it.

Long Island, with some of the highest property taxes in the nation, needs to take a long hard look at the house of cards they're building and find another way to fill the coffers. Otherwise not only will the seniors be leaving town in droves, so too will the young as they search for greener pastures.

Author: Geri Sonkin

It Continues To Change

If you had asked me a few short weeks ago, I would have told you that the market here was stuck in the winter/holiday doldrums. The phones weren't ringing. The silence was deafening. Then all of a sudden, as if buyers and sellers were responding to a cosmic voice, the market on Long Island awoke with a vengeance.

Since the days of instant gratification for sellers are relegated to a distancing memory, they are once again listing their homes with brokers, hoping to realize the incredibly inflated prices of a short time ago. Unfortunately for them, it's not happening. Though we try to explain that markets change and we have to adapt to the rhythms created by external factors, it is a hard lesson to learn. Even those of us in the market long enough to have ridden the waves and survived, tend to have selective memory when confronted with the beginning stages of a downturn.

In some towns, the numbers of available homes has quadrupled in the past year and a half. The old saying, "Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it," certainly applies here. How many of us lamented the lack of inventory for our buyers. Well, we certainly have that now. The buyers on the other hand, can finally take a deep breath and leave their cash at home when looking at a property for the first time. They have choices, putting them a little bit closer to the driver's seat. The problem is that seller's, stuck in the "but my house is worth. . ." syndrome too often walk away from a really good offer, only wishing for it weeks later. There is a frustration level on everybody's part, perhaps teaching us all there is no perfect market.

Fortunately for me, I can always count on my mother's comforting reminder that "this too shall pass."

Author: Geri Sonkin

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Once Upon A Time On the North Shore of Long Island . . .

was as I recall, the opening line of one of my favorite movies -- Sabrina. I was reminded of it when I read an article in the New York Times about the attempt to preserve what remains of the Northwood estate in Oyster Bay Cove. Once an incredible 865 acres, reduced by time and circumstance to a paltry 60 now, it is one of the fading reminders of the splendor of Long Island's Gold Coast in the early 20th century.

Mansions proliferated, from the turn of the century through the 1920's as leaders and scions of industry, the who's who of high society, bought up huge parcels of land for summer retreats and built massive structures, fashioned after the architecture and castles of Europe. Often occupying hundreds of acres of prime real estate, with some of the the most magnificent views the island has to offer, the intricately designed homes, formal gardens, paths and outbuildings were, and still are a sight to behold.

If you visit, you have but to close your eyes and you can almost sense the excitement as guests arrived for the grand soirees hosted for the glitterati of the era. What wonderful relics they are of an age long gone. Whether or not you've ever been here and seen them first hand, you've likely been exposed to some of these mansions at one time or another. The backdrop of many a motion picture over the years, we've seen Old Westbury Gardens in Alfred Hitchcock's North By Northwest, in Love Story, The Age of Innocence and many others. Citizen Kane featured Oheka Castle, and the Vanderbilt Estate (Eagle's Nest) was seen in Crocodile Dundee II and a film my son made that has yet to be released. There are many others -- and a great site to visit to experience the magnificence of the time is Long Islands Gold Coast website.

Author: Geri Sonkin